How to Repair Chipped Car Paint in 4 Simple Steps

Repair your car's paint chip now before it mushrooms into a much bigger expense.

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Next Project
Time

A full day

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

Less than $20

Introduction

Here's how to take care of chips and dings in your car or truck before it's too late. Quick action will mean paint chips only require a simple fix, but let it go and they'll turn to rust before your eyes.

Tools Required

  • Denatured alcohol
  • Matches
  • Polishing compound
  • Touch-up paint

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Fix Small Chips

This is a typical rock chip that you can fix with this procedure. In fact, even if the car paint chip is about one-fourth the size of a dime, you can still repair it.

Fix small car paint chips Family Handyman

Step 2

Too Far Gone

This is a car paint chip that should have been repaired long ago.

  • The metal inside the chip has rusted and started to lift the paint at the edges. The fix we show here is for fresh chips that haven't started to rust yet.
  • If you see a rust spot, or have a dent along with your chip, you'll need to do a more challenging fix than we show here.

rusted metal Family Handyman

Step 3

Clean the Paint Chips

  • Clean the paint chip with soap and water and then dry it with a soft cotton cloth.
  • Rub a dab of automotive polishing compound over the paint chip to gently soften any ragged edges.
    • Pro tip: Just a dozen swirls or so will do the job. Too much rubbing could damage the clearcoat over the paint and make a cloudy mess.

Clean the car paint chips Family Handyman

Step 4

Clean the Finish

Clean the finish with denatured alcohol.

  • The alcohol will remove any wax or remaining grime.
    • Pro tip: Don't flood the surface with alcohol. Just a few wipes with a soft, damp cloth will do. 

Clean car paint with alcohol Family Handyman

Step 5

Apply the Primer

Apply a spot of primer with the butt end of a paper match.

  • Fill the area within the car paint chip, just touching the edges of the surrounding paint.
  • Let the primer dry for at least a half hour.

Apply primer to car paint diagram Family Handyman

Step 6

Get Your Touch-Up Paint and Primer

If you don't know the color number for your car, you'll have to find it on your vehicle identification plate.

  • Once you find the number, buy a small bottle of touch-up paint. If you can't find the correct color online, check with the dealer. Dealers often carry colors for the cars they sell.
    • Pro tip: If you can only find spray paint with the right color number, you can use it by spraying a bit of paint into the cap and applying it with a fine artist's brush.
  • Also buy a small can of auto primer.

Step 7

Paint the Chip

Put a small amount of paint over the primer coat.

  • Always test the color on a piece of paper to make sure it matches. The test will also give you a feel for how much paint to load onto the applicator brush.
  • Apply a second coat about one hour later. Let the paint cure for several days and rub it out again gently with polishing compound to feather the edges of the repair.
    • Pro tip: Don't do this repair in the direct sun or if the temperature is below 50 degrees F.

Paint the chip on car Family Handyman